The office of Kenya Children’s Legal Aid Work is often called upon to mediate between parties (mostly parents) disagreeing over the right way to support and take care of children. The party seeking help is asked to deliver summons and on an agreed upon date, they arrive at the offices for mediation.
A couple of things have become clear; the attitude most bear towards mediation is detrimental. Some come with their defensive shields ready, appearing confrontational in response to imagined attacks. Others forget that the mediation process is based on impartiality and expect that the mediator would solely advance their cause. On the other end of the spectrum are persons who refuse to attend altogether, those who arrive woefully late or resort to threats and insults in favour of mature discussions.
Mediation is vouched for by our constitution as an alternative form of dispute resolution, under Article 159. The logic behind that provision is clear. Mediation offers an opportunity for parties to compromise and dispenses with the lengthy court process and delays. These benefits seem to get lost in the shuffle and to ignore it displays great myopia.
Successful mediation entails preparation and calmness. Here are some general pointers; Assess your situation and come up with reasonable requests. Hear the other party out and be willing to compromise. Ultimately, the child is the focus. Stubbornly sticking to one’s opinion helps no one. Spite is not beneficial at all. Keeping in mind, that the mediator’s role is to guide and that the mediation process is not adversarial. It is informal and accords parties a chance to speak freely, explain themselves and even speak to one another. That’s the beauty.

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